Public Bryce vs. Private Bryce

I have a confession to make. Not really a confession to people who know me well, but if you’ve only ever interacted with me with lots of people around, then it might be a bit of a surprise.

I really dislike big groups.

It’s not that I have a hard time dealing with them. I mean, I can handle myself with a crowd, and I’m not terrified of being out in public or anything. It’s just not comfortable for me at all. How many people is too many? Probably around . . . 10? If it’s a gathering where there’s a bunch of smaller conversations going on, then that’s a little easier to soldier through, but even then I’d really rather be just out with a couple of friends. Which is ironic, because I like organizing parties.

The best analogy I can think of is that being out in public or with large groups is like carrying a weight for me. The bigger the group, the heavier the weight. It’s something I can do for a while, but the whole time I’m doing it, I’m having to force myself to do things that I wouldn’t otherwise do. I come home from a gathering, and I have to just go someplace quiet and be alone for a while before I feel somewhat normal.

I know this is something a lot of people deal with, but I came to a realization a week or so ago that put it in new light for me. I think I’ve developed a bit of a public persona for when I have to be in these situations. It’s a different Bryce–one who is outgoing and eager to strike up a conversation with all sorts of people. One who likes being the center of attention or at least isn’t afraid to put himself in the limelight from time to time. He’s also a Bryce who isn’t quite as considerate or thoughtful.

I don’t like public Bryce as much as I like private Bryce.

Some of it has to do with the fact that it’s a coping mechanism. I’m dealing with an uncomfortable situation, and so my attention turns inward–I put all my energy into maintaining that public persona, at the expense of being nice and considerate to everyone around me. It’s like I just don’t have the energy to do both, so one has to go. I’m not saying that I turn into a total jerk in public (I hope not, at least), but it’s a definite shift in who I am and how I behave.

In many ways, it’s similar to an experience I had when I was a missionary in Germany. My sense of humor in German is much more juvenile than my sense of humor in English. I couldn’t understand the finer German jokes, and I certainly couldn’t make them. So I resorted to the jokes I could make: basic wordplay, for example. I also felt much more comfortable around children, and I think that’s because they weren’t as intimidating as adults, who had an easier time telling how many mistakes I was making in my behavior and speech. German Bryce was a dumber, simpler version of English Bryce.

Does anyone else have this sort of thing happen with them? I have to assume so, but it’s not really a conversation I’ve had with anyone before. It’s not that I think I have multiple personalities or anything (not that I’m aware of, at least)–it’s just that I develop different approaches to handling trouble spots in my life. Same thing with air travel. I get myself into a different place in my mind in order to cope with the stress I go through when this all happens.

Anyway. There’s the essential thought. I’d love to hear some other sides to the story.

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